Straitjacketed Humor

16071701Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If I ever visit Key West, I’ll smuggle aboard enough food rations to last me twice as long as my planned stay, refrain from eating at any restaurant within a sixty-mile radius, catch my own fish from my hotel balcony, and cook them from my own grill on said balcony, setting off all smoke detectors in a three-room radius. To that end, I’ll probably increase my life expectancy by six years, and I won’t go to sleep with cockroach-filled nightmares.

If writing zany characters were an occupation unto itself, Carl Hiaasen would have fit the requirements long ago and placed himself firmly within its trenches. This go round we are treated to a hairless capuchin monkey that was fired from Pirates Of The Caribbean and who developed an unhealthy attachment to Johnny Depp, hurls his own feces, and is addicted to Dunhill tobacco. He also subsists on conch fritters and other fried foods, most of which have his cholesterol levels shooting through the roof and have aided in his current hairless ailment; a daughter who sees dollar signs and would sell her soul to the devil himself for a million dollars instead of grieving over her deceased pa; a child sex offender named Plover Chase who exchanged grades in AP English for bedroom antics of a more than questionable nature; a Dragon Queen who likes to fornicate on a Rollie scooter; an assistant medical examiner who likes to have sex on her operating table amid sixty or so stiffs and in the middle of a hurricane; one sodomized surgeon; and a restaurant inspector who counts cockroaches with a homemade roach-vacuuming concoction.

There’s enough satire and madness and mayhem to satisfy the attention span of a gnat with a Medicare scam large enough to interest the FBI, one spec house up in flames faster than a blowtorch applied to rice paper, questionable corpses, scorned ex-lovers, dubious alliances, and the ever lingering environmental issues found in many of his tales…You know, your typical Carl Hiaasen novel.

While I can only speculate on his writing methods, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he sits at his desk chair in a straitjacket pecking at his keyboard with the tip of his nose or dictating his stories into a voice recorder to be later typed by his secretary. And he does it all with a large grin and swag smile, inching up the chaos with each turn of the page. Because that’s exactly what happens here.

While BAD MONKEY certainly held my attention and had more than its share of laugh out loud moments, I couldn’t help but compare this novel to his earlier work, and I felt like he came up a little short. But on the bright side, there’s more than enough fuckwads and shitweasels to occupy an entire wing at an insane asylum. And in the end, that was enough for me to like this tale.

Light And Airy And Breezy

16130264The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

If you haven’t met an Erica McAlister in your life, then you should consider yourself a lucky bastard. You can whistle a lovely tune, as you march down to The White House, roll around on the eagle’s wings in the Oval Office, and then high-five the Secret Service—the guys with the earpieces and dark sunglasses—before your hands are slapped in cuffs, and you spend the next several years of your life contemplating your own stupidity in a maximum security prison somewhere in the middle of Kansas. This friend Erica has enough problems to cause a psychiatrist to start pounding whiskey faster than he can fill the glasses in the middle of her agreed upon appointment time. She’s a princess, a queen, and the entire court rolled into one; she’s the main attraction; she’s been coddled and worshipped since she was in diapers; this is her universe and everyone else merely gets to play in the sandbox; and she tells you her issues just so you can tell her how great she is and maximizing her sympathy points like stock tips.

But by the end of THE FIRST AFFAIR, she’d somewhat redeemed herself. Not to the point that she and I could have coffee together, but to the point that I didn’t need to wipe her existence from my brain via a metal probe and possibly a soldiering iron.

Jamie McAlister, her younger sister, isn’t without her own issues. Being completely starved for attention, to the point that she would have adopted a pet tarantula if he would just give her a hug, she devoted her time and resources to a completely unattainable man, simply because he had given her a look and possibly melted her thong in the process. She’s a starfucker of epic proportions. The President of the United States (POTUS) may have made googly eyes at her, but she began to view her life as some sort of fairy tale, where she was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel, all rolled into one big happy family. If naiveté were a full-contact sport, she’d have the shoulder pads and uniform and helmet, and she’d be poised for the ensuing kickoff. But, instead, of rooting for her, I felt sorry for her, and the massive number of ensuing missteps that somehow completely enclosed her life. Instead of being a likeable character, she had turned into the princess.

Brooke, Betsy, James, Greg, Lena, Peter, Paul, and Rachelle all lost my sympathy at some point during the novel, or never had it at all, and I sat back and waited for the hammer to drop on their lives. When it did, I took some sort of sick pleasure in their ensuing half-existence.

None of this is to say this is a bad novel. It was light and airy and breezy like a bag of popcorn, and it filled me up about as well as cotton candy.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Great Third Impression

236862Death Without Company by Craig Johnson
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I’d never heard of Craig Johnson before I attended Left Coast Crime 2011 in Santa Fe, NM. Let me say it was more than just a minor oversight on my part: it was probably a borderline tragedy. During a Sunday morning panel titled “Crime Fiction on Big and Little Screens,” he spoke about the Longmire series in production with A&E, and I was intrigued from when he first opened his mouth to the end of the discussion. To entice us to stick around and thank us for showing up on Sunday, cards for a giveaway were being handed out, and I happened to be second to the trough. An ARC of Craig’s upcoming release Hell Is Empty was one of the items being offered, and I snapped it up faster than a rattlesnake might attack a field mouse. And I was enamored enough with the writing and the characters to start at the beginning of the Walt Longmire series.

Like Craig Johnson the man, Craig Johnson the author leaves a damn good third impression. Death Without Company brings back all the familiar faces from The Cold Dish, and even manages to throw in a few new ones. The familiarity mixed with the new is certainly intriguing, and he only ratchets it up with great characterization, setting, and an intriguing mystery. Even though this is a first person narrative, like the other two, the secondary characters are rich in depth, description, and details to the point that the reader isn’t lacking a single piece of information. If that isn’t enough for you, he takes it a step further and Absaroka County feels about as close and homey as my own backyard.

Speaking of my backyard, he was kind enough to stop in New Mexico on his book tour for his latest novel As The Crow Flies, and I was impressed with the way he carried himself. Afterwards, he signed three novels for me, not his latest, and he seemed both genuine and sincere. My last encounter with him was an email exchange, and he exhibited all the same qualities I gathered from my first impression.

So what’s my point? It’s a beautiful thing when nice guys find success, and I hope he discovers it in droves. He’s built up a faithful audience through wonderful prose, received numerous writing awards, but it wasn’t until his seventh novel that he hit The New York Times Bestsellers List. If I had a cowboy hat, I’d tip it in Craig Johnson’s direction, and I’d wish him nothing but the best. And if you like mysteries as much as I do, you’ll want to remember the name Craig Johnson. It’s one I won’t likely forget.

Mexican Hairless Beaver

17911278Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Hey fuckhead,

Yep, you, the one with the track marks running down both arms trying to slide off into oblivion, with the tilted head and the faraway expression, staring at the sun like it’s some four-headed monster ready to steal your dreams, twitching for your next fix like some random dog left out in the rain too long, with a stutter-stepping walk and attitude, veering off from the rest of the universe like a bad dream; you might want to sit this one out, otherwise you might have more than just a fogged-up brain on your hands. You may want to study a medical chart and have your CT scanned and actually study ligaments and tendons and muscles and bones and maybe even pass an anatomy class, although that might be too much to ask, because you’re about to get your ass kicked, and you’ll need to be able to piece yourself back together later, with the doctor’s help of course. And frankly that’s what you’re going to need: loads and loads of help.

The medical industry is encased in a shitstorm the likes of which your coke-snorting ass has never seen, and it’s about to get worse for you and your fellow fuckhead Americans. And if you can stop being a worthless piece of horseshit for more than one fucking minute, you might actually have a prayer at making it in this world, instead of ending up in some premature, unmarked grave all by your lonesome staring at the bottom of a coffin at the age of twenty-two with your eyes wide open.

The good news is you’ll die of lethal injection, probably at the hands of some no-name doctor, when all you did was go and see the man about a head cold. So at least you’ll have that going for you. Because if I really wanted to kill you, I could shove a cork down your throat or jack you full of potassium until your eyes bleed, or I could have one of the Latvian nurses on my floor, who is really nothing more than a worthless piece of shit, who smokes more weed than she does rounds and surfs the Internet like she has a gun held to her head, ignore your ass for the rest of your miserable life, peppering your chart with the standard healthy readings when really you’re secretly dying of stomach cancer.

And don’t forget that I’ve worked for the mob, hell they brought me into their family, not the one where I had to prove that I’m worthy by killing some innocent individual while he was sleeping, or watching TV in the middle of the afternoon, but the one where I was sitting around the dining room table on a Sunday afternoon shooting the shit. I spent my formative years in dojos studying everything from tae kwon do to kempo, so I know over 100 ways to make your ears bleed, so if you don’t get yourself straight and step the fuck off, I’ll plant your ass at the bottom of a cesspool, and I’ll work the next 120 hours without even batting an eyelash.

Yep, I might just be the craziest son of a bitch you ever met. I pop Moxfane tablets like they’re caffeine pills; I take powernaps in a coat closet; and I’ll smear a pint of blood all over myself for the right cause. I have what you might call a rapid-onset addiction to bloodshed, and I killed four men while I was still taped to a chair along with countless other fuckers that I’d rather not mention since I’m in WITSEC, so I really have no qualms about killing an innocent, or in your case, not-so-innocent individual.

And while you may not think you’re a dumbfuck, and that you’re actually being clever by trying to jump my ass while I’m wearing scrubs, there are at least forty different kinds of stupidity, and over the course of our less than five-minute interlude, you exhibited every single one of them, and probably about a dozen others that haven’t even been medically diagnosed yet. So, yep, you’re fucked, and that’s even without your latest fix.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t go to Sicily. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.


Dr. Pietro Brnwa (Bearclaw), intern

P.S. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get some Mexican hairless beaver before you die.

P.P.S. Don’t be such a fuckhead, fuckhead.

DISCLAIMER – I really liked this book and this voice, so much in fact that I couldn’t write this review any other way.

Me And Kinsey

6643885“A” Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Me and Kinsey on Santa Teresa Boulevard. And Las Vegas Boulevard. Sorry wrong decade, but I was having a nostalgic Paul Simon moment, and I just couldn’t turn it down. And yeah I figured I would use improper grammar and discreetly reference KINSEY AND ME: STORIES which I haven’t yet read and I may never get to based on my current TBR shelf and future book endeavors. For those of you curious about the Paul Simon reference that would be “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” which graced the world with its presence in 1972 exactly 10 years before “A” IS FOR ALIBI was first published. If you’re looking for another piece of random trivia, the first printing was 7,500 copies, of which about 6,000 were sold. Needless to say, Sue Grafton took a ride up mystery mountain (she didn’t actually quit her day job until “G” IS FOR GUMSHOE”) where she currently looks down at the rest of us mere mystery mortals and probably laughs occasionally. Or at least that’s what I’d do if I were her since I can smile and laugh on command. And we’re back on track.

What immediately struck me with this novel was the voice that popped off the page. Kinsey Millhone reminded me of the hardboiled voices of old, which isn’t surprising since Ms. Grafton’s strongest influence was Ross Macdonald. Being fascinated with mysteries of related titles, similar to John D. MacDonald and Harry Kemelman, led her to create a mystery series of linked titles and shackled her to one series and character for 26 books, 22 of which have been published as of this review. Of those, I have the first 15 on my Kindle, so Kinsey and I will be joined at the hip through letter O. But I’ll be taking my time as I slowly meander my way up the mountain.

In her first outing, Kinsey reminded me of a piece of wood that hadn’t been sanded or varnished or even painted for that matter. I know there’s a splinter in there somewhere, and if I poke around too long, I’ll find it, or it’ll find me. Either way, I’ll need the tweezers, and there’ll be more poking and prodding and I’m probably not going to like that much either. But she does show promise and potential if she can just manage to get her house in order and sand off those rough edges. She’s thirty-two years old and twice divorced, which means she has bad taste in men, or men unwisely choose her as marriage material, or she likes the thought of being married but doesn’t like the whole commitment aspect. Based on the fact that she’s a loner and unsentimental, I’ll toss option C out the window. I haven’t learned enough about her character to really give a definitive answer, but she does exhibit signs she might be a praying mantis or a tarantula. I don’t really have a problem with her being slightly unlikable, since interest and intrigue keeps me turning the pages, and she does exhibit both qualities rather nicely.

The plot felt a bit nebulous to me, instead of being compact and fully-formed. Sure, there’s a murder—well, multiple ones actually—and there’s a case of insurance fraud that Kinsey investigates, but it all proved a bit simpler than I would have liked. Maybe it was the climax and ending that whipped me completely out of alignment, with their rifle-like resolutions where my ears were still ringing from the blasts.

While this is Kinsey’s story, her female compatriots—Gwen and Nikki Fife and Sharon Napier and even Marcia Threadgill, whose boobs “sagged down like flesh melons bursting through the bottom of a string bag”—proved more interesting than the male counterparts, who always seemed about a half mile behind and rather worse for wear.

I’m interested enough to continue on with the series, especially since Ms. Grafton is a three-time Anthony and Shamus Award winner and is a recipient of the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. But I won’t rush right to my Kindle and pop open the next book.